1. Brew a Cup
Drinking a couple of eight-ounce cups of coffee a day may protect against heart failure, according to a recent study at Harvard University. But there’s a sweet spot, since drinking too much coffee (four or more cups a day) appears to increase your risk of heart problems. “Moderate consumption of caffeinated coffee was associated with an 11 percent lower risk of heart failure,” says study author Elizabeth Mostofsky.
2. Watch Work Stress
Women in high-stress jobs may be at higher risk for heart attack and stroke, a new study finds. If you’re in a stressful work situation, and it’s not realistic to make a change, be sure to make time for activities that can ease your stress: Yoga, exercise, and meditation are all good ways to find calm after-or better yet, during-a tough day.
3. Pick Your Protein
Though touted for their potential weight-loss benefits, high-protein, low-carb diets may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in women, a group of Swedish researchers found. If you’re giving lower carbs a try, be sure to choose heart-healthy sources of protein, such as tofu, tempeh, quinoa, beans, and low-fat dairy products.
4. See Red
You might associate cranberry juice with urinary tract health, but drinking two eight-ounce glasses of low-calorie cranberry juice a day might be good for your blood pressure, too. (Untreated high blood pressure can damage and weaken your arteries, increasing your risk for heart attack.) Choose low-sugar or unsweetened juice, or snack on antioxidant-rich dried cranberries as an alternative.
5. Go Dark
When you need a treat, try dark chocolate. San Diego State University researchers found that people who ate two ounces of 70 percent dark chocolate daily for two weeks had lower blood sugar, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and higher HDL (good) cholesterol—all markers of improved heart health—at the study’s end.
6. Stretch Your Legs
Walk over and talk to your coworker instead of sending that email. Researchers in Australia recently found that getting up every 20 minutes or so for a short walk—as short as 2 minutes—immediately reduced overweight office workers’ blood pressure. The researchers suggest these mini-breaks from desk-sitting may help maintain low blood pressure over time, which protects your heart.